East and West Africa
East and West Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world. We work in 12 countries, having expanded our programme into Rwanda in 2007. Our priorities are promoting intercultural dialogue and democratic development, supporting professional and creative links between Africa and the UK, and ensuring Africa is an active player in the global conversation on climate security.
Our Africa 07 programme was a year-long celebration of culture and identity marking both the 200th anniversary of The Slave Trade Act, which abolished slavery in the British Empire, and the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence.
Our aim was to build stronger relationships between the UK and Africa through a series of artistic and educational projects that explored the meaning of the past, its relationship to the present and the possibilities for the future. The programme was launched with a commemorative event at Elmina Castle in Ghana – one of the first European slave-trading posts in sub-Saharan Africa. Musicians, poets and artists from Africa, the UK and the African diaspora enacted the emotional journey of struggle, abolition and emancipation that comprised the slave experience. The President of Ghana, John Kufuor, and Baroness Amos, then Leader of the UK’s House of Lords, both gave personal views of the effects of the slave trade, and the audience received a pre-recorded message from Tony Blair, then UK Prime Minister. The event was broadcast to seven million people through the BBC.
In September and October 2007, musicians, artists and film-makers from across sub-Saharan Africa worked with UK artists in London on a collaborative project to explore themes of culture and identity called Bring the Noise. It increased appreciation of African music in the UK and highlighted the power and the beauty of creative fusions between Africa and the UK. The result was a series of high-profile performances to more than 5,000 people, including a prestigious appearance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Around 200 young people from Africa and the UK took part in a series of international exchanges – called the Belongings project – which developed leadership skills and intercultural understanding. The young people worked with networks throughout their local communities to explore issues of community and belonging.
One outstanding success of Africa 07 was a youth debate on slavery held in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons. Fifty young adults from 11 countries debated the impact of the slave trade in the 21st century. The event was hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon. Michael Martin MP, and broadcast on BBC Parliament. It was attended by Ghana’s Nana Kodwo Conduah VI, Chief of the Edina Traditional Area, and as a direct result, he announced a reversal of the ban on flying the British flag in Elmina, which had been in place for over 100 years following the bombing of Elmina by British troops in 1873. In doing so, he said: ‘From this day onwards, it is no longer a taboo to fly the British flag in Elmina – we will lift the ban to symbolise our commitment to the healing process and to creating new partnerships and collaborations that this event seeks to bring us.’
The relationships built up over the year with large numbers of young people will be sustained through our continuing regional programmes, including our school linking initiative Connecting Classrooms; the global volunteering partnership Global Xchange; and our young creative artists and entrepreneurs programme.
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